Keynote Speech by the Hon. Bishop Juan Anthony Edghill, Minister of Public Works of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Inland Transport Committee

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

Inland Transport Committee (ITC)

“Ushering in a decade of delivery for sustainable inland transport and sustainable development”

Geneva, Switzerland

Minister of Public Works, Hon. Bishop Juan Anthony Edghill

Excellencies, and all invited Guests – Good morning!

Ms. Olga Algayerova (Al-gay-er-ova), United Nations Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, thank you for the invitation to make this address on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee (75th) Anniversary of the Inland Transport Committee.

I bring greetings from our people in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana who tomorrow February 23, will celebrate 52 years as a Republic nation.

I have travelled almost eight thousand kilometers to be here but I am happy to be back in Geneva where I have visited several times before. It is good to be back and enjoy the hospitality of the Swiss nation.

The theme of this year’s Diamond Jubilee: “Ushering in a decade of delivery for sustainable inland transport and sustainable development”  is most fitting for the current challenges of our era.

This theme, I believe, provides an adequate framework to address the global transport challenges we have faced since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019, early 2020. I have no doubt that if we deliver a coordinated and sustained response to the global challenges of inland transport like we did in our efforts to combat COVID-19 then at the end of this decade, history will judge us with favorable consideration.

As a cross-cutting sector, transport plays an important role in efforts towards achieving the 2030 sustainable development goals.

In addition to their value and job creation, inland transport systems should be considered partly as enablers of sustainable development. Therefore, integrated approaches to policy making is imperative, including planning for land use, infrastructure development, public transport systems and goods’ delivery networks for the provision of affordable, efficient, safe and secure transport, improving energy efficiency, and at the same time reducing pollution and congestion.

Transport is the metal reinforcement that holds the supply chain together. Every step of the process is connected through transportation. It is transportation that moves raw materials from deposits where they are extracted, to the place where they are manufactured, to the distributors and finally to the consumers. If we do not have an economically stable transport plan in place, a lot of money is lost, which diminishes our competitive advantage. Further, the lack of such a plan transfers higher costs to consumers and increases the cost of living substantially.

We are currently seeing the effects of this trend with rising costs driving more and more communities into deeper poverty.

I recently heard about a major manufacturer in my country who imports a small but significant component of its propone gas business from Italy. What was explained to this company by its Italian Supplier is that the factory has not been receiving the raw materials from their supplier for many months because of challenges brought on by the pandemic. No work at the factory meant none of their long-serving and dedicated workers could be paid. Eventually, they decided to repurpose their business to manufacture pandemic-related goods that are currently in market demand.

Meanwhile in Guyana, the local manufacturer of propane gas is forced to source more inferior components from a more expensive source, and then pass on the costs to the thousands of households who depend on propane gas to prepare every meal.

Stories like this one, I know is being told everywhere across the globe and there is no doubt that we must do more to reverse the tide. Therefore, our collective and sustained efforts as governments and multilateral institutions must be to craft transport policies and allocate the financial and other resources in the most appropriate areas to stem or reduce these effects on our global existence.

I would like to use this platform I have been given today to add my voice and our country’s commitment to supporting the global efforts to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that threatens our individual and collective livelihoods.

I applaud the work of the Inland Transport Committee (ITC) that has over the years, done exceptional work to promote Sustainable Development in Transport. This work continues and it is precisely why we are here this week to engage in dialogue and exchange ideas, as well as later today, firmly commit through the signing of the Ministerial Resolution to move along the spectrum from words to firm actions.

The transport sector we know is one of the major contributors of CO2 emissions as well as a major energy consumer. Therefore, in order to assess transport sector sustainability, it is necessary to assess its trends and projections concerning carbon emissions and energy use.

Key issues that affect Latin America and the Caribbean are the rapid expansion of vehicular fleets, particularly of vehicles used for personal transportation, at a time when the roadway network has not kept pace with that expansion.   For the governments of many cities, this has made mobility both a challenge as well as a high-priority issue in terms of comfort, transit times and air pollution. This is acutely prevalent in Latin America. Another evident trend in Latin America is the rising use of diesel fuel by automobiles, primarily because the price of diesel is usually lower than gasoline and because there is an increased usage of sport utility vehicles – many of which are diesel-fueled (UN Publication, 2015).

As we embark on the next steps for implementing the Global Plan for sustainable inland transport, every stakeholder – including and especially all our governments and multilateral institutions must leverage our strengths and influences and take honorable actions in this decade that will have a lasting positive impact on the macro-economic stability of our livelihoods today and for generations to come.

Thank you!


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